Consider this: Big Data Luddites


, , , , ,

Bore da, pobl dda. A hyfryd dydd ‘Big Data’* i bawb.

When it comes to Big Data, some people accuse me of being akin to a Luddite. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not that the facts matter. In the age of superficiality and surfaces there is as much wilfully cultivated obliviousness as there is unashamed and unabashed term abuse. Add the prevailing underlying current of anti-intellectualism into the mix, and we have an explosive combination that manifests itself in the alliterative combination of bluff, bluster and banality.


I was reticent about writing this article, because it’s a bit like arguing against the irrational, self-interested and wilfully obtuse. Or as Ben Goldacre would have it, “You cannot reason people out of a position that they did not reason themselves into.” Therefore, a lot of care needed to be exercised. Indeed, Mark Twain once stated, “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” Now, I wouldn’t go that far, and I do try to be nicely diplomatic, most of the time, but I can see where he was coming from.

Anyway, without more ado let’s get a handle on what a Luddite is, in terms I hope that most will understand.

According to Wikipedia (yes, I know) The Luddites were:

“19th-century English textile workers who protested against newly developed labour-economizing technologies from 1811 to 1816. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work.”

So why do I get a feeling that some people think that I am a Big Data Luddite?

Here is Peter Powell of PDP Consulting Pty Ltd putting me in my place below the line on my piece titled 7 Amazing Big Data Myths:

“With all due respect – your post does sound a little like what I could envisage an exchange between a man riding a horse and a man driving one if the first automobiles….sorry.”

Although a respectable knowledge of the technology and its evolution would inform otherwise, I assume that this means that I would be the “man riding a horse”…  An interesting piece of conjecture indeed, even if hat in lacks in accuracy is made up for by the inexplicable certainty of belief. Still, it’s fascinating to discover just how many ‘experts’ think that this stuff – the sort of stuff I was doing in the mid to late eighties at Sperry and later Unisys – is bleeding edge innovation,

Sassoon Kosian a Sr. Director of Data Science at AIG, had this to tell me on my piece entitled Amazing Big Data Success Stories:

“Yes, cynical indeed… here is another amazing Big Data success story. You go on your computer, type in any search phrase and get instantaneous and highly relevant results. It is so amazing that a word has been coined. Guess what that is…”

What to say? There goes a person who seems to believe that the history of search starts and ends with the Google web search engine. Something slightly less than a munificently inapposite comment, only outdone by its tragically disconnected banality.

More recently, Bernice Blaar had this to say about my take on Big Data in general and The Big Data Contrarians in particular.

“Master Jones may well be the great and ethical strategy data architecture and management guru that the chattering-class Guardian-reading wine-sipping luvvies drool over, but he is also a brazen Big Data Luddite. No, actually far worse than a Luddite, he`s a Neddite, because with his ‘facts’ and ‘logic’ (what a laugh, you can prove anything with facts, can’t you [tou}???) he is undermining the very foundation of the Big Data work, shirk and skive ethic that has been so hardily fought for by the likes of self-sacrificing champions and evangelists of the Big Data revolution, to wit, such as those bold, proud and fine upstanding members Bernard Marr, Martin Fowler and Tom Davenport, for example, and the brave sycophants that worship at their feet. Martyn is worse than Bob Hoffman, Dave Trott, Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel, Tab C Nesbitt and Bill Inmon, all rolled into one. He may be a great strategist, but I wouldn’t hire him. Contrarian Luddite!”

And then followed it up with this broadside:

“The Big Data Contrarians group are nothing more than a bunch of over-educated clown-shoes who are trying to scupper the hard-work of decent people out to earn a crust from leveraging the promise of a bright future. In a decent society of capital and consumers, they would be banned off the face of the internets.”

How does one reciprocate such flattering flatulence? How can one possible respond to such a long concatenation of meaningless clichés? Though to be fair, I quite liked being referred to as a Neddite, whatever that is.

Anyway, to set the record straight, this is where I stand.

A contrarian is a person who takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be.

Like others, I am a Big Data Contrarian, not because I am contrary to the effective use of large volumes, varieties and velocities of data, but because I am contrary to the vast quantities of hype, disinformation and biased mendaciousness surrounding aspects of Big Data and some of the attendant technologies and service providers that go with the terrain. I don’t mind people guilding the lily (to use an English aphorism for exaggeration), but I do draw the line at straight out deception., which could lead to unintended consequences, such as creating false expectations, diverting scarce resources to wasteful projects or doing people out of a livelihood. That’s just not tight.

Does that make me a Luddite (or a Neddite)? I don’t think so, but do make sure that your opinion is your own and is arrived at through reason, not some other persons bullying hype. As I wrote elsewhere some moments ago “If you have to lie like an ethically challenged weasel to sell Big Data then clearly there is something amiss.”

As always I would love to hear your opinions and comments on this subject and others, and also please feel free to reach out and connect, so we can keep the conversation going, here on LinkedIn or elsewhere (such as Twitter).

Many thanks for reading.



Photograph: Delegates at my Big Data Summer Camp in Carmarthen (Wales).

*Data mawr

Please leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s